On July 22, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced the adoption of amendments (the Amendments) to the SEC’s rules governing proxy solicitations that are intended to “facilitate the ability of those who use proxy voting advice — investors and others who vote on investors’ behalf — to make informed voting decisions without imposing undue costs or delays that could adversely affect the timely provision of proxy voting advice.” The Amendments represent a modified version of the amendments the SEC originally proposed in November 2019, which were previously discussed in the November 8, 2019 edition of Corporate & Financial Weekly Digest.
Continue Reading SEC Adopts Amendments and Issues Guidance Related to Proxy Voting Advice

On March 25, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued an order extending conditional relief (the Modified Order) for reporting and proxy delivery requirements for public company registrants and other filers in the wake of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The Modified Order provides filers with an additional 45 days to make filings pursuant to Sections 13(a), 13(f), 13(g), 14(a), 14(c), 14(f), 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the Exchange Act), Exchange Act Regulations 13A, 13D-G (except for those provisions mandating the filing of Schedule 13D or amendments to Schedule 13D), 14A, 14C and 15D, and Exchange Act Rules 13f-1, and 14f-1, that would have been due during the period of March 1-July 1, 2020 (the Relief Period), subject to the conditions discussed below. This relief covers, among others, reports on Form 10-K, 20-F, 10-Q, 8-K and 6-K, as well as Schedules 13G and 13F but, as noted, expressly excludes Schedule 13D filings and also is not available for filings under Section 16 of the Exchange Act (i.e., Forms 3, 4 and 5).
Continue Reading SEC Further Extends Filing Deadlines for Companies Impacted by COVID-19

On November 5, the Securities and Exchange Commission voted to propose amendments to Rule 14a-8 of the Securities Exchange of 1934 (Exchange Act) to address required share ownership thresholds for a proponent to submit a shareholder proposal, update the “one proposal” rule to clarify the rule that a person can only submit one proposal per meeting and amend the vote support thresholds required for a proponent to resubmit a shareholder proposal at subsequent shareholder meetings.
Continue Reading SEC Proposes New Amendments to Modernize Shareholder Proposal Rules

On November 5, the Securities and Exchange Commission voted to propose amendments to the rules governing proxy solicitations to expressly apply them to proxy voting advisors. The proposed amendments would codify the SEC’s position that proxy voting advice is a “solicitation” within the meaning of the proxy rules, place certain disclosure requirements on proxy voting advice and define what would be impermissible false or misleading disclosure in the context of proxy voting advice.
Continue Reading SEC Proposes Amendments Relating to Proxy Voting Advice

On October 31, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS) filed suit against the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, challenging the guidance that the SEC issued in August 2019 regarding the applicability of the federal proxy rules to proxy advisors such as ISS. The SEC’s guidance was previously discussed in the August 23, 2019 edition of Corporate & Financial Weekly Digest.
Continue Reading ISS Files Suit Against SEC for Proxy Voting Advice Guidance

The Council of Institutional Investors (CII), an investor advocacy association primarily for pension funds and local governments, has put forth a proposal to amend the Delaware General Corporation Law to limit the ability of publicly-traded Delaware corporations to maintain multi-class common stock voting structures (i.e., high-vote/low-vote stock structures).
Continue Reading Institutional Investor Advocacy Group Proposes Limits to Multi-Class Voting by Delaware Companies

On August 20, a federal magistrate judge in the Eastern District of New York granted a motion for summary judgment in a derivative case brought against purported 10 percent stockholders of 1-800-Flowers.com, Inc. Pursuant to Section 16 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, the judge found a hedge fund liable as a 10 percent owner, despite the fact that it had delegated voting and investment authority to its investment adviser.
Continue Reading Federal Court Rules Investment Fund is 10 Percent Owner in Section 16 Case

Investment Advisers

On August 21, by a vote of 3 to 2, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued interpretive guidance on an investment adviser’s fiduciary duties with respect to voting of proxies for client accounts. The guidance makes clear that advisers may agree with their clients that the client, and not the adviser, will vote proxies, but such guidance is generally impractical for advisers to private funds and registered investment companies (because there is no practical way to assign voting power to the funds).
Continue Reading SEC Issues New Guidance Regarding Proxy Voting Responsibility of Investment Advisers and the Applicability of Proxy Rules to Proxy Voting Advice

On May 11, the staff of the Division of Corporation Finance of the Securities and Exchange Commission (the Staff) issued 45 Compliance and Disclosure Interpretations (C&DIs) that relate to the proxy rules and proxy statements, replacing the Staff’s prior interpretations that were published in the Proxy Rules and Schedule 14A Manual of Publicly Available Telephone Interpretations (the Manual) and the March 1999 Supplement to the Manual (the Supplement). Thirty-five of the C&DIs reiterate prior guidance from the Manual and the Supplement. This article highlights the six C&DIs that reflect substantive changes and the four C&DIs that reflect technical changes to the prior guidance in the Manual and the Supplement. The Staff also noted that it is in the process of updating other previously published interpretations relating to the proxy rules.
Continue Reading SEC Division of Corporation Finance Issues C&DIs on Proxy Rules and Proxy Statements, Overhauling Telephone Interpretations Manual

Proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) recently updated its frequently asked questions (FAQs) for US proxy voting policies and procedures (excluding compensation-related policies and procedures). The following is a brief summary of the new/updated FAQs.
Continue Reading ISS Updates Frequently Asked Questions for US Proxy Voting Policies and Procedures for 2017